My brother and sister left on Sunday. Despite the stress that’s caused from having everyone around, a bizarre melancholy takes its place when they’re gone.
I found myself alone in my room embodying a peculiar silence. My parents went to the library for a talk on “Long Island Folklore” (it’s free). This peculiar silence followed a particular phone call – from one of my former roommates, Vivian, who I was never really close to. She works at a publishing firm, and maybe because she feels sorry for me, offered to show my writing to someone at her company. Before I got too excited, she gave me a long schpiel on how publishing has changed, “people don’t read” anymore, and she’s lucky if she has her job next month. I still managed to feel hopeful…until the next portion of news she delivered. A new girl has just taken my place in the apartment. She has everything I don’t: a job, a boyfriend, and wealthy parents. Her name is Madison. She is the new occupant of my room in Manhattan. In the life formerly known as mine.
This was not to my liking. I felt numb. And I didn’t want to be in this room anymore. So I took my parents’ car and I drove to Starbucks. And, here I am. How everything can in one moment change.
I just witnessed an epileptic seizure. In my numbness, while walking up to place my order for a tall soy vanilla latte, an ordinary young woman with leggings and Ugg boots started freezing and falling. The crowd around her was already in action trying to help her; prop her up against the glass window of pastries and sandwiches. I probably couldn’t have done anything if I wasn’t numb; there were people around her. But, I was numb. So, I sat back down in my seat in the mezzanine.
I watch as another female Starbucks customer, a stranger, next to her grabs her arms and tries to prop her up, while the African American barista shouts with half a muffin in her mouth, “Don’t touch her- my sister has those all the time – don’t try to move her.” Another barista is on the phone and within minutes, the Miller Place Fire Department is there. The female stranger has already taken the young woman’s cell phone and started calling people to try to get through to her friends or family. While she’s talking to one of the young woman’s friends, relaying what’s just happened and trying to find out her medical history, the paramedics from the ambulance are attaching an oxygen mask. This group of strangers is now a team, formed around helping an unknown woman. The paramedics are talking to the female stranger trying to gather info from her phone conversation and there is communication back and forth. They start wheeling the young woman out, and the female Starbucks customer still on the girl with the seizure’s phone, drops her newly purchased beverage and goes with the stretcher to make sure she’s right there to maintain contact with the young woman’s people. At this moment, another Starbucks customer runs across the place to give the original helper her belongings from her seat. She smiles gracefully while continuing to follow the young woman. And this is where droplets of tears fall onto my keyboard. Because of the kindness of strangers.
It’s that second where you stop thinking about how much you hate your crazy parents for fucking you up, you stop feeling resentment towards your brother for being selfish, feeling frustrated at your sister for shopping instead of helping your niece with her schoolwork, you stop burning yourself up with internal acid over the guy who was supposed to love you forever but dropped you like a hot potato one day without so much as a look back, you stop feeling angry at yourself for another unaccomplished day, you stop comparing yourself to others, you stop wondering if you hadn’t slept with that guy on the first date would it have lasted, you stop thinking about how every time you look in the mirror you’re fatter than before, you stop feeling lonely, you stop believing you’re disconnected from everyone in the world, you stop worrying, and you stop thinking about a waspy twit named Madison taking your place in New York City.
Because love is the only thing that’s real. And that’s what you’re witnessing in a split second of time that will probably be lost in ten minutes when new people come in to order their vanilla lattes and with absolutely no clue what had just happened. With no clue what went on between several human beings who had never met each other before in their lives.
Because love is so Goddamned real. Even when it’s just for a second between strangers. And it doesn’t have to belong to just you. Because it belongs to everyone.
I drive home, and don’t even have to get in my pajamas because I’m already wearing my perma-sweats. I put on my new favorite song, Adele’s “Someone Like You.” The emotion catches me like a relentless fishhook and I listen to it twenty times. I wonder if this is my way of saying goodbye to the past. Who knows? Maybe the past was just screaming to be recognized. I know New York is going on without me, but that’s somehow okay as I fill out the final form for my creative writing class that starts later this week. My future.
My parents pull into the driveway and enter the house fighting over who stole the garbage can and who’s fault it was that it was stolen. They have no clue I took the car. I pretend I am sleeping, but my mother comes in my room anyway to offer me some stolen brownies from the free buffet. They’re tasty, and I give her a hug goodnight and ask her to shut my light off on the way out. I go under the covers with Vito and just lie there.
I hope the young woman is okay. I silently thank her for the gift of opening my heart tonight.